With just six games remaining, Brooke Ammerman and the Badgers have surged to a 24-2-2 record.[/media-credit]One more win and they’re WCHA champions.With a 16-point lead over second place Minnesota, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team needs just two more points to lock up the WCHA regular season title.After an attendance record-setting game against Minnesota last weekend, Wisconsin is confident it can bring the 10,668-fan energy up to Bemidji.“If I’m a player, this is fun,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “This is exciting. We only get six more [games]; as a team, that’s all we get. You want to prepare for each one of them as if it’s the last one of the season. I think we’ll come out Friday with some energy. We’ve got some things to play for yet.”The Badgers are not taking the Beavers for granted. Bemidji State has defeated other top teams and has started to make a name for itself nationally.BSU (12-11-3, 10-9-3-2 WCHA) hasn’t cracked the top-10 rankings, but has been receiving votes for several weeks. Bemidji State has also been a consistent challenge for Wisconsin, forcing the Badgers to work much harder for their wins.“I think we just have to keep things in perspective,” junior forward Brooke Ammerman said. “Bemidji has beaten Minnesota, Mercyhurst and Duluth, three of the top teams in the country. They gave us two good games when they were here. It’s going to be a tough challenge.”These two teams last met in early October at the Kohl Center. The Badgers dominated Friday night with a 7-1 win and managed two goals in the second game.That 2-0 win over Bemidji State is the lowest scoring game Wisconsin has played all season.“I think they just play a great system,” Ammerman said. “They all buy into it and they’re pretty good skaters now. They have that really good goalie in net. They give us a hard time every time we play them and they play very disciplined. We just have to make sure we don’t get frustrated and we keep moving the puck and back-check hard and make sure they don’t get a quick goal on us.”Knowing one will eventually find the back of the net, UW is aware it needs to get off as many shots as possible. Yet, the defense also needs to stay consistent with the past couple of weekends and focus.“I think consistency is a big deal for our defense,” senior defenseman Geena Prough said. “Just focusing on the little things and getting the puck up quick, and quick transitioning. We know that their goalie is very good so we just need to get a lot of shots and hopefully that’ll take care of itself.”With only six games left in the regular season, the Badgers are treating each game as their last.For Prough, nothing can be taken for granted.“Obviously I have to play each game like it’s my last. It’s my senior year so I can’t take anything for granted. I think coming off of this weekend against Minnesota we have a lot of energy and we’re ready to go. We’re going to treat Bemidji like any other top ranked team because they’re a very good team.”Johnson is confident his team’s season-long hard work – with only two losses on its record – will pay off.“We’re playing for a title right now and if we win Friday night, they’ve done something special,” Johnson said. “It’s a long grind, it’s a tough trophy to win. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of commitment, it takes a lot of things going right for a long period of time. Now they’re in position, they can see their hand on it.”
Chelsea claimed a narrow victory over Malmo in the Europa League after they were greeted with a rousing atmosphere in Sweden for the first leg of their last 32 tie.Ross Barkley poked in a curling cross from Pedro to score in the first half.Olivier Giroud flicked in the second after Willian cut the ball back having beaten his opponent in the box.Malmo ensured it was a nervy ending for Chelsea as Anders Christiansen slotted home in the 80th minute.Victory eases the pressure slightly on manager Maurizio Sarri who said his “job was at risk” after Chelsea were thrashed 6-0 by Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday.Chelsea remain unbeaten in the Europa League this season before the second leg at Stamford Bridge on 21 February.Relief for under-pressure SarriSarri looked dejected on the sidelines as he watched Chelsea suffer their worst defeat in 28 years at Etihad Stadium.It was their fourth loss in 10 games and meant they dropped down to sixth place in the Premier League – 15 points behind leaders Manchester City.Victory was needed against a Malmo side who have qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League for the first time.There were signs of nervousness from Chelsea at the start of the match, Malmo winning two corners within the first minute and having a shot blocked by Jorginho in the box.But the Blues became more comfortable as the game went on and when Giroud coolly doubled Chelsea’s lead to score his fifth goal in the competition this season, Sarri could be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief.Chelsea made hard work of it in the end, though. Malmo threatened to equalise in stoppage time but as Sarri had stated before kick-off, his side “need targets in the short term” and victory of any kind was just that.The wounded animal respondsChelsea went into this tie as resounding favourites – Malmo coach Uwe Rosler said the “odds are 80 million turnover against 450 million turnover” before the match.Rosler also expected a response from Chelsea after their mauling by his former club Manchester City, saying: “When a grizzly bear is wounded he’s a very, very dangerous animal.”Sarri’s side were certainly wounded but they were made to battle for their victory after Christiansen’s late goal lifted the hostile atmosphere in Sweden for the last 10 minutes of the match.David Luiz had earlier deflected away midfielder Arnor Ingvi Traustason’s half-volley and Barkley was forced to make two headed clearances to deny Soren Rieks in the first half.The hosts – who were encouraged by their fans to press and hassle the Chelsea back four – seemed to tire in the second half which was not surprising given this was their first competitive fixture since December.But they regained a bit of spark at the end after Chelsea had missed opportunities to extend their lead. Barkley had a close-range effort tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Johan Dahlin before Pedro’s curling effort was deflected narrowly wide. –Source: BBC
Derek Boateng maintains that his objective is to work hard for Ghana as they prepare for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations as he blanks all club matters.The Ghana midfielder is one of the 24 members of Kwesi Appiah’s preliminary squad pressing for positions in the final team.In the run up to joining Ghana’s training camp in Abu Dhabi, Boateng had been negotiating a move to English side, Fulham from Ukrainian club Dnipro after completing a successful medical last week.Despite the move yet to be finalized, Boateng says his focus is just on Ghana’s preparations for the Cup of Nations in South Africa.“Since I arrived here I have left behind all the thoughts of Fulham and concentrating on how to help the Black Stars win the trophy,” Boateng told www.ghanafa.org.“Those reports that I have reached a deal to skip the Nations Cup are not true otherwise I won’t be here training with my colleagues. “I am fully committed to Ghana and currently I am only thinking about the Black Stars and how to do something special for the country.”Boateng has taken part in all of Ghana’s training sessions at the Zayad City Sports Complex in Abu Dhabi since Saturday morning.